Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Informal Research for Sonnet 29 Analysis

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As I continued my research of Sonnet 29, a recurring theme that I found was of love- both of normative and forbidden categories. In Shakespeare's time, "sodomy", or homosexual relationships, were punishable by death. Yet, several scholars and researchers alike have deduced that many of his sonnets were written to men, sonnet 29 inclusive. In an article by Hugh McIntosh entitled "The Social Masochism of Shakespeare's Sonnets" (published in the journal Studies in English Literature 1500-1900), he claims that "the major portion of Shakespeare's sonnet collection consists of poems written to a younger man who is clearly treated as a patron". As I read this article, I thought on sonnet 29 and I think I agree with McIntosh. First of all, this sonnet mentions nothing in regards to femininity or womanhood. Quite the opposite- Shakespeare continually compares himself to men other men and mentions kings, him, him with friends, ect. Unlike sonnet 130, where a woman's every feature is compared to something beautiful and heavenly, this sonnet is quite the opposite. It embodies a sense of reality marks this particular writing as heartfelt and genuine, while still rather disguised. I think Shakespeare was writing to a man.

As a non-scholarly, interpretive source, I found an article on canadianshakespeares.ca that explored the sexuality behind sonnet 29. They used the example of Rufus Wainwright (why this particular pop star keeps popping up in my analysis, I will never be sure) and how he explores Shakespeare in his work as a gay artist. His claim is that "Shakespeare can destabilize dominant understandings of gender". Sonnet 29 is helpful in this analysis of Shakespeare because of the first person perspective that the sonnet entails. It is assumed, in the article, that Shakespeare is dedicating this sonnet to a "fair-complexioned man", which supports the idea that Shakespeare, in fact, writing this in an attempt to destabilize the gender norms in his day and age. The article further states that we can continually use Shakespeare to achieve this end.

My audio-visual source was hard to find at first, but upon further inspection, I found this amazing rendition of one of my favorite singers putting music to the sonnet. Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine) sang this for a Rufus Wainwright album. It helped me see the sonnet through a different perspective. It's actually quite a hopeful melody- not sad or dreary at all. Every time I've read the poem, it's been in a rather sad and dreary tone in my head, but this helped me understand that it may actually be a hopeful message throughout the poem, and not just in the volta.

As a social source, I talked to my friend Kaitlyn (also a member of this class) about the sonnet and what it really meant. We discussed how Shakespeare is perhaps suggesting that you need a love in your life in order to find happiness because without love life is drudgery. We talked about whether or not this a hopeful and appealing idea or one that is a little bit depressing. On one hand, the idea of life without love is a terrible thought, but on the other, the idea of being doomed in life if you never find love isn't that appealing of a thought, either. We were comparing it to sonnet 50 with these thoughts in mind.

This basically describes my researching method- chocolate milk and quickly devoured food. 


  1. I like your conversation about the poem and it's themes. I also studied sonnet 29 and it was fun to see how easy it was to talk about with my roommates because the theme of love is still so prevalent today. Shakespeare sure had a knack for writing about things that are important for years to come!

  2. Initially I was somewhat irritated by the constant bickering about whether the sonnet is written to a man or a woman. It seems to me that once that topic comes up, the sonnet is no longer the focus. I think this is tricky ground, whether Shakespeare is writing to a man or a woman certainly had an important impact on the poem and it allows us to see potential social commentary that Shakespeare may have been making. However, I also think it is important to recognize that this is a lens we are using to read the sonnet and it will impact the way we read some of the lines.

  3. !!! Ok, your traditional scholarly source is very cool to me. I was (am) really unsure about who the "thee" is in sonnet 29, but after skimming over your source it definitely seems likely he wrote to a man. I found another article that suggested Shakespeare wasn't writing to person at all, but was writing about his relationship with God. ...There are a lot of interesting ways to interpret this sonnet.